It's been almost two decades since California became the first state to legalize medical marijuana with Proposition 215 in 1996; since then, the cannabis industry has grown tremendously. Since the passage of Prop 215, 22 other states have adopted medical marijuana legislation, two states have outright legalized, and three more are poised to legalize this year.
Though California has yet to approve non-medical cannabis for adult use, it has the largest cannabis market in the nation, according to a widely referenced report published last year by The ArcView Group. "California remains the largest state market at $980 million, even without Adult Use regulations; once Adult Use is adopted --- which is likely by 2017 --- the total California market is projected to increase dramatically."
California is setting an example we can learn from nationwide - the economic impact of legitimizing the market is already having a huge positive impact all over the state. In a recent article published by the San Jose Mercury News, Nate Bradley, ex-cop and executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association - said an estimated 100,000 Californians are employed in the industry, either growing or servicing suppliers and their customers. "Once the medical-marijuana industry is legalized statewide, and you legitimize the entire production and distribution of medical cannabis, the business will explode and the state would collect $400 million a year or more in sales taxes." That's $400 million out of the hands of cartels and drug dealers - money that can now be spent towards education, roads, and social programs.
There are barriers to legalization, however. Groups like Smart Approaches to Marijuana oppose outright legalization and would rather keep the status-quo - locking up non-violent users of a plant that has never killed anyone. Cannabis also remains as a Schedule I drug - meaning the Federal government views it as having "no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, a high potential for abuse, and is lacking safe use under medical supervision."
The current Scheduling of cannabis is proving to be the biggest hurdle to the industry, as banking regulations prevent businesses who sell cannabis from keeping their hard-earned monies in the bank. Legislation like the recent Marijuana Business Access to Banking Act of 2013 is being pushed by pro-cannabis representatives across the country who are attempting to reform Federal banking law to allow cannabis businesses to operate the same way others do. Until reform comes at a Federal level, it will be difficult for the industry to flourish as well as it could - but at this point, legalization is looking inevitable.Washington D.C, Oregon, and Alaska all have the opportunity to legalize this year - will voters choose to maintain the "status quo" that funds violent cartels, or will they accept that cannabis is poised to become the next great American industry?
Troy Dayton of the ArcView Group will be speaking about the many opportunities in the cannabis industry at the upcoming International Cannabis Business Conference. Prominent California cannabis entrepreneurs will certainly be featured extensively at the conference, providing insights into the California industry, as well as providing helpful business advice, including Debby Goldsberry, currently with Magnolia Wellness and co-founder of the Berkeley Patients Groups; Don Duncan of Americans for Safe Access; Robert Jacob, Mayor of Sebastopol; Amber Senter, vice-president of Bayside Botanicals; Dave McCullick of Sonoma Patient Group; and Adam Mintz of Steep Hill Labs. The conference is coming up quickly on September 13th & 14th, so get your tickets while supplies last.